a review by the Azure-Winged Magpie, redux.
So… I just read my original review of ゴジラ / Gojira, aaand… yeeeah. I know it’s only been a few months since I became the “Shimmering” Azure-Winged Magpie, but boy! did I used to swear a lot. And that’s why, instead of keeping the link to the original post up all big and nice at the top like we’re doing with all our reduxes from here on out, I’ve hidden it away at the bottom (okay no. I just left it out).
Y’know… since we’re following new protocol and all.
(I’ll talk more about these reduxes some other time).
But GUESS what?! Our GODZILLA Celebration kicked off yesterday and lookie lookie what the Crow found for me!
That‘s right! It’s been exactly TWO years since I brought the KING to The Corvid Review! It’s like the stars have all lined up! I really couldn’t have asked for a better day to come back around to talking about my KING, and just because everything’s so perfect today… I’m jumping right into fangirl mode and getting started with all my praises of…
ゴジラ / GOJIRA
SPOILER LEVELS at MAJOR KAIJŪ ALERT
(Note: The Crow originally helped me re-organise my original post, so a big thanks to him!)
Okay. So let’s make a few things clear.
This Gojira is NOT my KING, but he’s the one that kicked it all off.
You see… just like James Bond (who ripped off the Gojira set up), there are DIFFERENT Gojiras and Godzillas. They don’t all have to be characters made for reboots or sequels or whatever. And not all of them are my KING.
This one might not be my KING. But this one was the OG.
ButFIRST! It’s STORYTIME!
So here’s the thing. I’ve been a big Gojira fan ever since I was just a teeny bitty chick. It’s kinda inescapable when your cousin (and then-best friend) growing up is really into the whole “oh I’m Japanese and have to show it!” thing. He loved a lot of things that came out of Japan but we really didn’t get much of those things around here normally. Sure, we got repackaged things like Power Rangers and the odd anime episode being aired out of order. Oh and we got Transformers (it counts). But then I saw something. It was an old buncha VHS tapes my mum had brought over when she came down to Ol’ Blighty. And when we figured out how to use the stupid machine… things happened.
Things like this:
I was sold on the spot.
(It’s kinda funny how I never told that story on here before).
But yeah… let’s get back to the OG and his shenanigans.
(A bit of a warning to the wise: I get kinda angry at points in this review).
At 63 years old, of course Gojira looks dated. But it’s just as awesome as another film released the same year: Seven Samurai. And the two movies share an actor too! And then there’s the whole story about how Honda Ishirō (the director) went on to work with Kurosawa in his later years.
And oh yeah… I love me some good old rubber battles. But this one? This is a whole different class o’ criminal. And it’s the kind of class that hurts.
But wait… you’re asking me how come it hurts? Well… let me get some history up in this review.
In English that name means: ‘Lucky Dragon 5′. When the good ol’ US-of-A dropped the thermonuclear warhead on Bikini Atoll (1954. Just some months before this film’s release) the ship was outside the so-called “Danger Area” and the people on-board STILL caught the fallout.
Some distant (and I mean very distant – I haven’t met them myself) relatives of mine lived through the Bombs. Let me tell you: Even though I’m more of a Brit than Japanese, I know exactly how bad that whole thing was for Japan. Yes Japan was a horrible nation during WWII. Yeah, I see the need to stop the War early. What I don’t see is the sheer suffering that the country had to endure (and that was pretty much completely Oppenheimer’s doing). You hear horror stories about those times. And they’re not nice.
The Crow wrote a series of replies on Reddit a few years ago to a post about the “survivors” of the Bombs which were really… thoughtful. If he lets me when he’s around next, I’ll copy-and-paste them here. He speaks my mind better than I do sometimes.
And I get it. Everyone gets it. The USA is not happy about it either.
But then (with the fallout from Bikini Atoll)… to mess up this bad?! I mean the Crow and I help build things which (if not made right) could kill tons of people any hour of the day (just look at what’s going on with the 737 MAX for reference). That’s how we make most of our dough. The whole point of us having slaved through all those years of school and Uni and homework and sleepless nights is that we don’t.mess.up.
And the fallout fiasco from Bikini Atoll was a HUGE MESS UP. These things should never happen. Doctors take the oath to make sure a patient is outside mortal danger or at least better off than they were when they first came in. And us engineers have an unspoken oath to make sure what we’re helping build is the best version there can be. No other scene’s acceptable. And it shouldn’t be. When the people behind the scenes half-do their jobs, this is the kinda thing that happens.
Some months after the real-life incident… (note: even though I’ve watched some really messed-up things in the many years I’ve been watching messed up things, seeing “survivors” of nuclear-weapons radiation? That’s plain hard to get through.) out comes Gojira.
And it starts with a familiar scene.
The Eiko-maru (which shares her name with a real cargo ship torpedoed just under 10 years before the film was released) goes through the same treatment as the Daigo Fukuryū Maru did.
Every rescue effort sent out to get them doesn’t come back. The Bingo-Maru doesn’t and neither does the fishing boat from Odo Island. Whatever happened was bad and the people want to know what it was. So people shack up outside government offices. They mob the doors and demand to know what’s happening. Everyone’s yelling. Everyone’s angry and confused. But no one has a single clue what’s happened.
I originally had a pretty long rant here about how some idiots online talk about the scenes shown in this part of the film all: “oh look at these funny people lol”. I’ve taken it out because I think that I was going off the rails a bit too much. All I’ll say is the reaction of the people is that it’s what you’d expect.
Anyway… moving on.
We see a reporter land on Odo Island. The locals aren’t catching any fish and he wants to know why. An old legend of a sea monster named Gojira sparks up. It turns out that way back when, the locals used to appease the monster by sacrificing YOUNG GIRLS. And this is another thing that mugs me right off.
I mean… how long did it take humanity to evolve into decent people? Always in these stories (just think about the story of my ancestor Yamata no Orochi) it’s always young girls. Is it just that the people who’ve written these stories have a view of young girls being the tastiest of the human meats?
(Personally I prefer human-crow, but whatever).
In Gojira it might be just a reference. But just look through history…
(And here we go again. I’m mad all over…)
After the reporters inquire into the story of Gojira and hang around for a dance held to calm the sea monster down… a storm hits. And SOMETHING wrecks the island. No one knows exactly what wrecks the island. But a lot of damage is done.
Dr. Yamane Kyohei (Kambei from Seven Samurai) comes into the picture with some other sciencey-types. They investigate Odo Island. They find evidence of giant ‘footprints’ which are chock-full of radiation.
Oh, and they find a trilobite too.
Dr. Yamane hypothesises that there might just be a large creature from out of the prehistoric era about (I mean I guess that makes sense).
And just as he delivers his hypothesis… they see it.
And turn me upside down… does it look horrifying.
The film’s dated and all. But that first time you see Gojira… it’s not hard to keep yourself from wincing.
There’s something about the way He moves which makes it even scarier. It’s just old effects. But usually you look at old effects and they make the old-timey monsters look funny. I mean think of the original King Kong. Hard to see him moving around like our new monkey isn’t it? In this film though… Gojira‘s movements just make Him look so scary instead of funny. And that’s probably because His design looks so diseased.
Y’see… not only is He HUGE. But He’s also covered in sores and scars. Very specific sores and scars.
(Warning: the picture might be a bit disturbing)!
They also cut out a scene here. Gojira was meant to have a nice steak lunch around this time.
Dr. Yamane presents his findings in Tokyo. He suggests that a 50ft-odd (back then that was BIG) ancient sea creature has evolved into the monstrous figure we just saw coming over the hills. And it’s underwater atom bomb experimentation that’s disturbed it and made it rise up to the surface.
While people argue whether or not to release this information, complete with a photo of Gojira, to the public (it gets released)… ships keep going missing. And everyone decides that it’s about time the JSDF should respond to the monster under the water.
In the first act of aggression since WWII, the JSDF launch depth charges to kill Gojira. And this sets Dr. Yamane into a bad mood. He wanted to study the creature and doesn’t believe Gojira should be killed.
And all those depth charges? They barely scratch Gojira. In fact… they just make him angry. VERY angry.
But more on that later…
Then we get to meet Dr. Serizawa Daisuke (played by Hirata Akihiko in the original. Ken Watanabe plays a version of him in 2014’s Hollywood remake). He’s facing a break up that he has no idea is coming and he’s being hounded by reporters who want to know what’s he’s exactly doing right now.
It’s his fiancée who gets a reporter (played by someone kinda important, so keep an eye out!) into his private spot. After shooing the reporter away, Daisuke agrees to show Emiko (Kōchi Momoko), his about to be not-fiancée what he’s working on. It’s something which the film keeps under wraps for now, but it kills a lot of yummy fishies in a tank the minute we see it.
The fishies all dying upsets Emiko so much that she up and flees the scene(!) without mentioning to Daisuke that she’s about to call off their engagement.
I guess she’ll call him later or something.
She returns home to her dad (Dr. Yamane of all people!) and her new shiny boy-toy Ogata Hideto (Takarada Akira). Hideto tells Emiko before Yamane shows up that he wants to ask her daddum’s permission to ask for Emiko’s hand in marriage. But the two lads get in a fight over the nation’s decision to kill Gojira, and Kyohei tells Hideto to Get Out and never come back(!).
(U _ U✿) poor boy! WHY did you get into a fight with your bae’s dad?!
(I actually have a funny story related to this starring the Crow.)
And just when Kyohei stomps off all angry and everything… Gojira surfaces near Tokyo Bay.
In the span of just some hours, He wrecks EVERYTHING in his path. NOTHING the puny humans do even scratches Him. From here on out (I guess I shouldn’t spoil the whole thing), the film switches between epic shots of Gojira just ambling through Tokyo and exacting His vengeful retribution on humanity AND the puny humans scampering about to save their hides.
And it’s… GLORIOUS.
And it’s HIDEOUS.
The reason I get so mad at people who laugh at Gojira is that I hate how they don’t understand what this particular monster stands for. It’s not just “some guy in a rubber suit” stomping on paper and/or cardboard models that this film shows.
Gojira is a walking metaphor.
How do you think people in Japan responded to the shock of having the Bombs dropped on them? After so MANY firebombs were dropped… they just didn’t understand what the these new and hideous weapons were. They dropped and vaporised everything in their blast radius. They burned people not even close to them’s skin off. They started turning people into squirming medical specimens. They left poison in the air for years.
It was something the nation at large couldn’t cope with. It was a monstrosity of a weapon that’d never been seen before. No one had any idea just how much worse something called a “bomb” could even be.
And that… that is what Gojira is a metaphor for.
And here’s something else… Gojira Himself only hits the mainland twice.
One time for each Bomb.
And everything that we do to try and stop Him? It fails. Time and again.
A lot of Japanese media centres around the Bombs. I’m so distanced from my heritage that I might as well just say I’m a weeb. But just look at Akira. Just look at Ghost in the Shell.
You don’t have to be Japanese to see it.
THIS is exactly why I despise Holocaust deniers and their kind. [EPIC PROFANE SENTENCE REDACTED]. There is an anger that builds up in people who had their kind go through this. And this anger’s not (and should never be) pointed at people who are currently alive or had nothing to do with it by themselves.
But then someone turns around and makes fun of the people who went through that… people you’re connected to more than they are. And then some other muppet flat out says it never happened. Yeah… expect people to get angry over that.
Oh and to those of you (and I know you’re out there) who blame ALL AMERICANS for the Bombs and the old wars or ALL GERMANS for the Holocaust or ALL BRITS for the Empire… let’s have you shove yourselves right up the Khyber as well.
I’m a Brit who came in by way of Japan. Am I responsible for the atrocities both the Empires I’ve got links to committed? No. Is (what’s a common “American” name) Bob from Alabama responsible for the Bombs? No. Is the Nutcracker responsible for gassing the Jewish people of Poland? No. We’re never responsible for what people two generations behind us did. But what happened has to be respected.
That’s how you get to keep your “okay person” card.
It actually really kinda riles me up when people bash the film for just being “another monster film”. Yes… Gojira isn’t really all that original. But in the context it’s shown in… it’s a masterpiece.
The ending is both a win and a bit of a gut punch. Poor Daisuke bites the dust in a heroic sacrifice but there’s a lot left to think about (kinda similar to Seven Samurai). And if this were the only film to star Gojira… I’d be alright with it. I love me the follow-ups. But up until Shin Gojira nothing’s really reached the heights of this one. The other Gojira films are… different.
This is the original kind of Gojira film where it’s just Gojira vs THE WORLD!
Or wait. No. That’s wrong. It’s the other way around.
This is nature fighting back by throwing what we’d done back in our faces. Making us feel puny and insignificant. Gojira is no mutated sea creature… He’s the living, walking embodiment of the Bombs.
Some people say that the 2014 Godzilla is the first “post-human” blockbuster. I say THIS film is the first one. And it has better characters while still being “post-human”.
But it’s for different reasons than they argued. Gojira isn’t “post-human” because the humans were shoved aside. It’s “post-human” because it’s the kind of film that leaves us with a bitter taste about our place in the world and how insignificant we might be in the long run of things. Unless we fix our own business. WE’RE the ones likely to make the Earth go post-human (and even if we start fixing our business… there’s no guarantees with the damage we’ve already done).
Like I said before, it’s really weird how both Seven Samurai and Gojira end on similar notes. There’s this whole feeling of triumph that gets smashed by the final lines of the films.
And it all comes together to make a great film. And it deserves every bit of praise it gets. It’s a scary look at what we could do. Science and technology are what they are. They’ll advance like they always do. But there are hidden dangers that we might never expect lurking around the corner courtesy of Mama Nature.
And we are NOT prepared for nature fighting back.
Right now one of our BIGGEST problems is Global Warming. What the heck are we REALLY doing to stop it?! That Orangutan in the White House has been trying to do the opposite thing since ever that country decided to go total comedy hour. And forget old mop hair over there. SO MANY people in positions of power are trying to do the opposite thing to what we should be.
Are we really prepared for when the effects get worse? It hit 38 Celsius two years straight in the UK (we’re not helping neither). And while there is yes a natural shift… DO YOU NOT SEE how bad we’re messing the planet up?!
And that’s what makes Gojira timeless. The rubber-suited “hero” Gojira? That’s a different monster. This one is a menacing figure of doom. And it annoys me to see people laugh at the mention of it.
I originally had a MUCH bigger post (and I mean MUCH BIGGER POST – text available upon request I guess…) that the Crow told me wasn’t appropriate because I was going off-topic too much. What you’re reading has is a rehash of a review that had been cut out of that and written-over.
A big shoutout to that dopey old corvid for keeping me in check and helping me brainstorm the end of this review. I lost the plot somewhere along the line.
I got really riled up when writing this out the first time because SO MANY things came back to my mind. And I din’t like any of it. But I think I’ve said enough of my piece. So I’ll leave it at that.
Gojira‘s a GREAT film. It’s an important film, and it comes with heaping loads of recommendations from The Corvid Review. It’s one of those films you really should watch if you’re interested in history. Or humanity.
Azure-Winged Magpie up! Up! And Awayyy! *BONK!*
THE CROW: 8.5/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 10/10
THE NUTCRACKER: 7/10
Oh! Oh! And here’s my masterpiece drawing of Shin Gojira!
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Here’s a poster for Gojira: